Thursday, February 20, 2014

Research Q of the Week: Summary of Summary Publications (2/20)

Question: We're updating our licensing ordinance, and someone suggested using summary publication. What is summary publication, and can my city use it?

Answer: Summary publication is providing an accurate, intelligible, but much-shortened version of something the city is required to publish, such as a public notice or ordinance. A properly published summary fulfills all legal publication requirements as completely as if the entire summarized matter had been published.

While statutory cities have specific authority to use the practice of summary publication, staff in charter cities should consult their city charter first. Before pursuing summary publication, the council must approve summary publication of ordinances by a four-fifths vote.

When might this option come in handy? Statutory cities may choose to publish the title and summary of an ordinance if it's lengthy, or if it includes charts or maps.

If a statutory city chooses to publish a summary or condensed version of proceedings, ordinances, resolutions, and other official actions, the summary must meet the following criteria:

• It must be written in a clear and coherent manner.
• It must avoid the use of technical or legal terms not generally familiar to the public.
• The publication must indicate it is only a summary.
• The publication must indicate the full text of the document is available for public inspection at a designated location.
In summary: If your "summary" resembles a car classified ad—"2002 dsl 125k, gd runner, AC, PW, PL"—or appears to be written in legalese instead of English, you're probably off track, and should give LMC's research department a call for guidance.

Don't want the summary on summaries? Check out Minn. Stat. § 331A.01.

This blog post conveys general information. It’s not legal advice. Please check with your city attorney before acting on this information. 

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